Sunnier Side of the Office

Facebook To Launch News for Watch

Facebook is prepping to launch a news section for its Watch platform, according to Axios. The social network has reached out to both legacy and digital news publishers to test a daily video feature.

As we’ve written about a few times, Facebook earlier this year announced sweeping changes to its newsfeed algorithm in which it would de-prioritize publishers’ and brands’ posts in favor of posts from users’ Facebook friends. At the time, Facebook said it was trying to combat passive engagement and encourage more meaningful engagement.

“While executives have said they don’t know exactly how they will measure meaningful engagement through comments and shares, creating a news product that’s native to the platform and includes content from vetted publishers will hopefully drive less passive engagement and curb the spread of misinformation on its platform,” said Axios.

This move comes after a year in which Facebook was forced to acknowledge the spread of fake news sites on its platform. As Axios wrote this could be an opportunity for the platforms to guide users to credible news sources, especially during a breaking news cycle.

Creating Balance: The Future of The Economist‘s Readership

By Arthi Veeraragavan

The Economist announced it is actively pursuing an audience that they believe will allow them to increase their global readership: women.

Recent figures put subscribers at 1.4 million, with the gender split heavily under-representing women. Currently, less than 30% of subscribers are female.

To balance this figure, the publisher has partnered with Ipsos, a leading market research company, to conduct an analysis of how various audiences perceive nuances in language style. The purpose of the research is to help increase relevancy amongst women, with the publisher’s EVP of Circulation and Retail Marketing stating, “There are societal elements that people have that mean they perceive communications differently, and we’re adjusting that to improve our relevance among female prospects.”

While it will take time to balance out The Economist’s current gender split, if successful, brands will have a greater opportunity to reach their target audience through the publisher. Additionally, language research could become a tactic leveraged by more publishers that are looking for ways to increase relevancy amongst specific demographic groups.

Networks Are Removing Clutter To Improve TV Viewing

Digiday has a good overview of TV networks cutting down on their ad loads as they work to adjust to consumers’ changing viewing habits.

Fox Networks Group plans to cut advertising on its networks to two minutes per hour by 2020. NBCUniversal said it will reduce the number of ads in its ad pods by 20% and the total ad time by 10% on more than 50 original prime-time programs across its networks. Turner has also made some announcements in this space for TruTV and TNT.

As Digiday points out, these moves are the exception at this point, as TV national ad loads are still on the rise. But these announcements illustrate how networks are realizing that because of the rise of Hulu, Netflix and video-on-demand services, tolerance for ad load time is decreasing.

“The average episode of NBC’s ‘The Voice’ is watched for 35 minutes on live, linear TV,” said Digiday. “That jumps to 43 minutes on connected TV devices and 48 minutes on digital video recorders. With video on demand, time spent is at an average 51 minutes.”

Even with the decrease in ads on network TV, media companies may be able to charge advertisers more, as less commercial time makes the inventory more scarce, and therefore ad rates could actually go up.

This Week in Social: AI With a Side of LOL

By Melissa Santiago

Machines listening to our conversations and mining them for data is not breaking news, but like something straight out a dystopian thriller, Amazon’s Alexa home devices have reportedly been emitting laughter, and people are not amused.

According to The Verge, “Alexa seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which is certainly scary if you’re home alone.”

After people started sharing Alexa’s creepy laughter on Twitter and reddit, many owners of the devices opted to disconnect theirs.

Amazon has acknowledged the issue and says it has a fix for the problem: “In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are changing that phrase to be ‘Alexa, can you laugh?’ which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘sure, I can laugh’ followed by laughter.”

Seems like an easy problem to solve, but raises the question, why would Alex need to be programmed with laughter? I mean, whatever — as long as she doesn’t start responding with, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”